Haiti: Arriving nearly one year on
As my flight approaches Haiti I can see deep turquoise seas surround the island, and what is left of the lush green. As we get closer all I see is row after row of small white squares. They are too close together to be buildings and almost on top of each other.
I realise that these are tents, now home to hundreds of thousands of people whose homes were destroyed in the earthquake, almost a year ago.
I can see a few cars on the roads – mostly four by fours. It seems quiet and still from the air – but I soon realise I could not be more wrong. Upon arrival in Haiti the plane erupts into cheers and clapping, and the young girl next to me jerks awake with a smile.
I start chatting to another charity worker, a volunteer nurse. She has been in and out of various emergency areas, and she tells me with great sadness that the hospital she worked at the last time she came to Haiti has been closed due to lack of funding. She is worried about where everyone who needed the hospital so desperately would go now.
I pass through immigration and enter the chaos surrounding the baggage claim. Everyone is climbing over each other and shouting and I wonder how I’ll ever find my bag. I eventually spot it on the crowded belt and struggle to reach it in time.
A flurry of hands and friendly faces grab my bag and pass it to me with a smile. I thank them first in English, then in French, and try to remember what thank you is in Creole, for good measure (it’s “mesi”). Along with the nurse I met earlier, we walk outside the airport.
Port-au-Prince is a mixture of hand painted signs, bustling crowds, and pile after pile of rubble. After a few minutes, it becomes part of the landscape, and I watch women, effortlessly balancing shopping on their heads while they pick their way carefully across the rubble, chatting with each other.
Stalls are everywhere – selling everything from car parts to Independence Day DVDs. Curious faces stare inside our car as we drive past and especially when we get caught up in traffic.
Large trucks with rainbow painted pictures on them drive by, precariously carrying impossible numbers of passengers – the local public transport system.